AFC SUDBURY suffered the anguish of an extra-time defeat in Tuesday night's pulsating Ryman League Division One North play-off semi-final, staged in atrocious conditions at a rain-soaked King's Marsh Stadium.
AFC SUDBURY suffered the anguish of an extra-time defeat in Tuesday night's pulsating Ryman League Division One North play-off semi-final, staged in
atrocious conditions at a rain-soaked King's Marsh Stadium.
Star striker Jamie Rowe had twice netted equalisers to force extra-time, the first from the penalty spot to cancel out Ian Luck's opener.
Leon Gordon regained the lead for Canvey Island early in the second-half, but Rowe thrilled the Sudbury faithful with a spectacular equaliser in the 75th minute.
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Penalties were looming when Gordon grabbed the winner in the 113th minute. He rose high to glance home a free-kick with a precision header.
It was hard luck on Sudbury, who had finished as runners-up in the league table. Canvey Island will now play Redbridge away in the play-off final on Saturday.
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Ironically, Sudbury went close to scoring just a minute before Canvey Island took the lead. Matty Clements did well to charge down Mel Capleton's attempted clearance, but
the rebound fell kindly for the big keeper, who was able to smother.
A telegraphed back pass by centre-half Kevin Hughes allowed Luck to intercept for the opening goal in the 21st minute. The slippery surface left keeper Nathan Munson powerless to prevent Luck from skipping past him and sweeping into an unguarded net, despite the efforts of the back-tracking Shane Wardley on the goal-line.
But Sudbury looked the more impressive when playing on the deck, and they gradually began to get the upper hand, none more so than when Rowe chipped delicately into the box, only for Gareth Heath to head weakly wide.
The equaliser arrived from the penalty spot in the 38th minute. Rowe was hacked down in the box by defender Colin Wall, and the home favourite picked himself up to send Capleton the wrong way from the spot.
A shoulder injury to goalscorer Rowe, in the last minute of the first-half, required such lengthy treatment that there were nine minutes of stoppage time.
That was a big ask on a pudding of a pitch, but both sides went on the attack in an exciting second period.
Sudbury should have taken the lead within 75 seconds of the restart. Stuart Boardley was clean through on goal, but he pulled his shot disappointingly wide with just Capleton to beat.
It was the visitors' turn to squander a one-on-one in the 49th minute. Ex-Redbridge striker Luck was odds-on to score his second of the evening, but he hadn't bargained for a reflex save from Munson.
However, Munson had no chance with Gordon's sweet header on 55 minutes. Skipper Craig Davison provided the inch-perfect cross for midfielder Gordon to head into the roof of the net from eight yards out.
The chances continued to flow and Rowe should really have grabbed the equaliser on the hour. He had time to place his shot, but the
experienced Capleton parried the effort, and there was no home player on hand to plant the loose ball into the net.
But Rowe was not to be denied, and he drew Sudbury level with a clinical finish in the 75th minute. He was away in the clear, but was still 25 yards out when he chose to shoot early and fire an unstoppable effort past the advancing Capleton.
It was Rowe's 28th goal of the campaign, and it always ensured extra-time.